Authorised Officers

What is an AO?

An “AO” is a plant export Authorised Officer.

AOs are individuals, trained and assessed by the department, who are appointed as Australian Government officials under the Export Control Act 1982. An AO is able to perform a range of export functions on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Plant Export AOs play an important role in ensuring the biosecurity risk free, safe and trusted export of a variety of commodities, which helps maintain Australia’s reputation as a trusted exporter of quality goods.

The functions an AO is appointed to perform is based on the training and assessment they have undertaken.

An AO applicant may be any of the following:

  • A Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment employee
  • A employee linked to a specific business
  • A third party provider not linked to a particular business who plans to carry out functions at one or more registered establishments

I'm interested in becoming an AO, where do I start?

Step-by-step guide to becoming an Australian plant export AO

To become an Australian plant export AO, a few steps must be completed.

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Step 1: What type of goods do you want to inspect?

Step 2: Submit an application

You have successfully completed the first step of the AO candidate journey through choosing your job functions. The next step is application.

You must submit an AO application online through the Plant Export Management System (PEMS).

Detailed instructions on the AO application process in PEMS can be found in the “Applying to become an Authorised Officer using the Plant Export Management System” work instruction.

In the application process, you must:

  • provide 100 points of identification; with at least one piece of primary identification and one containing a photograph
  • provide a National Police Check (no more than 12 months old)
  • choose your job functions.

Once your application has been approved, you will proceed to the next step.

Are there any pre-requisites?

There are no pre-requisites for becoming an AO however, pre-requisites may apply for certain job functions. More information can be found on the website under Job functions for Authorised Officers.

Download

Document Pages File size
Attachment 2: BV13001 prerequisites PDF 1 140 KB
Attachment 2: BV13001 prerequisites DOCX 1 68 KB
Authorised Officer medical assessment report for BVI3001 PDF 14 582 KB
Authorised Officer declaration of boarding experience PDF 2 214 KB
Authorised Officer declaration of boarding experience DOCX 2 73 KB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Cost

You must pay an application fee of $250.

Further information about AO fees and charges is available on the department’s website.

How do I become an AO?

Step by step information on how to become an AO is provided on this webpage. Begin from Step 1.

Am I required to be an Australian Citizen in order to become an AO?

It is not a requirement to be an Australia citizen in order to become an AO, however, you must be able to obtain an Australian National Police Check.

Is an AO a government official?

When undertaking the functions they are appointed for under the Export Control Act 1982, AOs are regarded as Australian Government officers, however they are not considered employees of the Australian Government.

What conditions apply to an AO?

  • An AO must:
    • have no unresolved conflicts of interest that would affect their ability to carry out their work as an AO
    • sign a legally binding Deed of Obligations that will detail their responsibilities
    • only carry out the specific export functions they are appointed for
    • pay all required fees and charges
    • comply with the Australia Public Service Values and Code of Conduct when acting as an AO
    • have ongoing monitoring of their performance as an AO to ensure they maintain their competency
  • All job functions an AO is appointed to perform must be carried out in accordance with their Instrument of Appointment and the Plant Export Operations Manual (PEOM).

What does fit and proper person mean?

A fit and proper person is someone who can demonstrate to the department that they are suitable to act as an AO on behalf of the Australian Government. A fit and proper person assessment will include, but is not limited to, an analysis of your National Police Check.

What is a third party AO?

  • A third party AO is an AO that is not linked to a registered establishment and is able to provide services to any registered establishment within the export industry.
  • A third party AO will determine their own charges when undertaking an inspection.

Can people employed in a management or control position in a registered establishment apply to be an AO?

  • Yes, as the department will make an independent assessment of their suitability to become an AO.
  • If they are then appointed as an AO, their performance may be subject to more intensive assessment under the department’s audit regime.

If an AO applicant has a criminal record will they be automatically ineligible?

A criminal conviction or pending charge will not automatically exclude an applicant from being appointed as an AO. Nonetheless, the department may be concerned that a particular charge or conviction reflects that applicant’s fitness to perform the services required or may affect their integrity and the reputation of the department.

Step 3: Complete the eLearning

You have successfully completed the first two steps of the AO candidate journey. The next step is eLearning.

As an AO candidate, you will be enrolled into the relevant eLearning programs. You will receive email notification of enrolment, and be directed to the department’s learning management system - Learnhub.

The eLearning programs are designed to be informative and self-paced learning products that are mandatory in preparing you for appointment in your chosen job functions. You are required to read and understand each page, and complete all quizzes and knowledge assessments.

What are the minimum computer requirements to run Learnhub?

To run Learnhub you will need the following:

  • Desktop requirements: Windows 8 will suffice, however Windows 10 is preferred.
  • Supported browsers: Google Chrome, with Adobe Flash Player plug-in enabled.

Is there prior learning recognition for an applicant that has been working as an inspector for a number of years?

There is no recognition of prior learning in place. Every AO candidate, including current departmental staff, must complete the training.

Step 4: Request training

You have successfully completed the first three steps of the AO candidate journey. The next step is facilitated training.

Facilitated training with a Plant Export Assessor (PEA) is mandatory for all job functions.

This training equips you with further skills and knowledge required to competently carry out your job functions, in accordance with relevant legislative requirements.

Although completion of the relevant eLearning programs for each job function is not a pre-requisite for facilitated training, it is recommended that you complete your eLearning before requesting facilitated training.

Detailed instructions on requesting facilitated training through PEMS can be found in the “Registering for Authorised Officer training using the Plant Export Management System” work instruction.

Cost:

You must pay a learning and assessment fee of $1750, for up to 5 job functions.

Further information about AO fees and charges is available on the department’s website.

What are the required competencies of an AO?

  • All AO candidates must demonstrate general competencies, which will be covered in a number of eLearning programs, these include:
    • Plant export legislation
    • Defensible decision making
    • Work Health and Safety
    • Treatments
    • Communication

      In addition to those listed above, AO candidates will need to undertake training for the particular competencies needed for the job function(s) they intend to carry out.

      • For example, an AO applying to inspect grain will need to complete the general program as well as the grain inspection programs.

Step 5: Request assessment

You have successfully completed the first four steps of the AO candidate journey. The next step is assessment.

AO candidates must participate in an assessment of competency against their chosen job functions. You will need to request an assessment through the Plant Exports Management System (PEMS).

Detailed instructions on requesting assessment through PEMS can be found in the “Requesting an Authorised Officer assessment using the Plant Export Management System” work instruction.

How will I be assessed?

A Plant Export Assessor will complete your competency assessment under the guidelines detailed in the Plant Export Operations Manual.

Cost:

No additional costs apply as assessment is included under the previously charged learning and assessment fee.

All fees must be paid, and both eLearning and facilitated training must be completed prior to assessment.

When will I be able to undertake inspections?

Once you have received your instrument of appointment you will be authorised as a plant export Authorised Officer and be able to perform inspections that you are appointed for.

Step 6: Appointment

You have successfully completed the first five steps of the AO candidate journey. The next step is appointment.

Once your assessment result has been verified, you must pay an approval fee and acknowledge that you have read and understood the obligations placed on you as an AO.

One you have done this, you will be able to request your Instrument of Appointment (IoA) through the Plant Exports Management System (PEMS).

Detailed instructions on how to request your Instrument of Appointment (IoA) through PEMS can be found in the “Requesting an AO Instrument of Appointment using the Plant Exports Management System” work instruction.

Cost:

You must pay an approval fee of $250.

Further information about AO fees and charges is available on the department’s website.

How long will I be appointed for?

Each job function appointment is valid for a period of 2 years (except in the case of the Bulk Vessel Inspection job function which is valid until the first prerequisite training/registration expires).

More information on reappointments can be found in Step 10.

What are my responsibilities as an AO?

As an AO, you will have delegations under the Export Control Act 1982 and the Export Control (Plants and Plant Products) Order 2011. Your instrument of appointment will detail your specific delegations under the legislation.

When working as an AO, you must not exceed your powers under the legislation.

As an AO, depending on your powers under the legislation, you may be legally required to make sure that:

  • Empty containers and/or vessel holds meet required standards.
  • Prescribed goods (plants and plant products) exported from Australia comply with the requirements of the Export Control Act 1982 and subordinate legislation (Export Control (Prescribed Goods-General) Order 2005, and Export Control (Plants and Plant Products) Order 2011).

Step 7: Ongoing support

Regional Assurance Manager (RAM) support

You will receive ongoing support throughout your appointment from your local Regional Assurance Manager (RAM).

A RAM is part of a regionally based team providing support to Plant Export AOs and their employers (clients). RAMs establish and maintain effective and productive relationships with their clients to ensure understanding of and adherence to plant export policies. RAMs do this through a number of regular on-site visits.

Once you are appointed, you can expect your local RAM to be in touch to organise your post-assessment visit.

Your RAM will be contactable throughout your appointment and will make regular contact with you.

You can find all the information you need, regarding RAMS and their visits, by visiting the RAM webpage.

AO Hotline

As an AO, you will also have access to the Authorised Officer Hotline on 1800 851 305.

You can call the hotline at any time, if you need assistance with an inspection, your appointment or have a general plant export query.

Plant Export Training mailbox

As an AO, you will also have access to the Plant Export Training mailbox at PlantExportTraining@awe.gov.au

You can email this mailbox at any time, if you need assistance with an inspection, your appointment or have a general plant export query.

Step 8: Ongoing audit of your performance

AOs must participate in regular auditing by the department. AOs are audited against performance standards outlined in the AO audit and performance standards policy. The audit policy framework has been created to ensure AOs are complying with the legislative and departmental requirements of their appointment.

Audits are performed to provide assurance to stakeholders, which is important to both maintain and gain new market access. Audits are completed at least once every twelve months, if no corrective action requests have previously been issued. AOs may have unannounced audits conducted at any time with any frequency.

Cost:

Fee for services rates apply to audits.

Further information about AO fees and charges is available on the department’s website

Audit process:

What are the Authorised officer audit and performance standards?

The AO audit and performance standards outline the audit policy maintained by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department) to audit AOs appointed for plant export job functions. The policy describes the framework of how and when AOs are audited by the department. The performance standards set the criteria against which AOs are assessed during audits in order to determine their compliance with legislative and departmental requirements.

How often will I be audited if I am issued a corrective action request previously?

You will have an audit at least once every twelve months standardly. However if you were issued one or more correction action requests (CARs) previously, periodic audit may be performed every three to six months.

Will I be audited for all job functions?

You may be audited for all or some of your appointed job functions, depending on the number of job functions you are appointed for and whether or not you have been active (conducted export activities) in each job function. Where you are appointed for many job functions, you will be audited on only a select few using a hierarchy system that prioritises your more high-risk job functions for auditing.

Where you haven’t used one or more of your appointed job functions since your appointment or last audit, it will be excluded from the audit process.

What happens if I receive a negative result?

You will receive a Corrective Action Request (CAR) for any non-compliance identified at your audit. When this occurs you may be subject to more frequent audit timeframes of three to six months.

Sometimes training may be mandated to rectify a non-compliance where it is identified as the appropriate pathway for rectification. Negative audit outcomes warranting immediate attention may be referred to the delegate and (in cases of extreme or repeated non-compliances) may result in the revocation of your appointment.

Step 9: Keeping up to date

The department issues Industry Advice Notices (IANs) to inform its clients of changes and updates affecting the export of plants and plant products.

As an AO, you will be automatically registered to receive IANs relevant to your job functions, or you can check the Industry Advice Notices webpage for updates.

As an AO, you will also receive SMS notifications when IANs relevant to your job functions are released.

Step 10: Reappointment

Each job function appointment is valid for a period of 2 years (except in the case of the Bulk Vessel Inspection job function which is valid until the first prerequisite training/registration expires).

You will be contacted prior to your appointment expiring. Whether you would like to continue your appointment or not, you must follow the instructions that will be provided to you at the time.  

You will receive a visit from a Regional Assurance Manager (RAM) prior to your reappointment.

Once you have had your reappointment visit and you have paid your reappointment fee, you can request your new instrument of appointment through the Plant Export Management System (PEMS).

Detailed instructions on how to request your Instrument of Appointment (IoA) through PEMS can be found in the “Requesting an AO Instrument of Appointment using the Plant Exports Management System” work instruction.

Cost:

You will not be charged for your reappointment visit, however you must pay an approval fee of $250 for your reappointment.

Further information about AO fees and charges is available on the department’s website.

Withdrawing from the AO model

If at any point you wish to withdraw from the AO model, you must complete an “Authorised Officer Withdrawal Form” which can be provided to you if you contact PlantExportTraining@awe.gov.au.

Information for employers

We understand that the process your staff member must follow in order to become an AO may seem daunting. This section will help you, as an employer adapt to the AO model for plant and plant product exports.

Below are the ways you can support your staff member through the AO process.

Understanding costs:

Fees and charges apply to becoming an AO. All costs must be settled prior to a person being appointed as an AO.

An employer may choose to pay their employee’s AO fees as an incentive. Please note that as an AO appointment is an individual appointment, invoices must be addressed to the AO candidate regardless of who will pay them.

You will find below a simple table outlining fees associated with becoming an AO and maintaining that appointment. Fees and charges are addressed under the applicable sections in the AO process of this webpage.

Further information about AO fees and charges is available on the department’s website.

Total fee breakdown
Fee description Cost
AO application fee $250
Learning and assessment fee $1750
Approval fee $250
Audit fee $36 per 15 minutes
Annual Levy $750

Understanding the AO candidate’s responsibilities:

It is the individual AO candidate’s responsibility to take the steps required to achieve their appointment as an AO. The company can only give support as needed.

The AO candidate must therefore:

  • Initiate the application process
  • Complete their eLearning
  • Request and participate in facilitated training
  • Request and participate in assessment

The employers should allow their staff to decide if they want to become an AO, and when they are ready to be trained and assessed.

Supporting your staff member through the AO process:

As the employer of an AO candidate, you will not be directly involved in the AO process, however you can support your staff member by:

  • Providing them access to a computer with an internet connection so they can complete their eLearning
  • Allowing them time to complete their eLearning during work hours
  • Giving them time off from work to attend facilitated training
  • Making sure they are ready for assessment and do not feel pressured to be assessed when they are not yet confident.

Continue to support your staff member after they are appointed as an AO:

Employers should provide a supportive environment that allows:

  • Appropriate time and resources for AOs to learn and become confident in their role
  • Appropriate time and resources for AOs to perform their functions
  • AOs to make independent export compliance decisions.

Benefits to the company:

By adopting the AO model, your company can benefit from:

  • Increased flexibility – you will have staff available to conduct export inspections when you need them
  • Consistent inspections – all AO candidates receive the same training and assessment, and follow the same instructional material
  • Ongoing support – your AOs will receive support visits from the department and can call the Authorised Officer Hotline on 1800 851 305 for assistance.

Instructional Material

Last reviewed: 22 July 2020
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